Promoting a Show

In reality, nearly every musician dreams about playing a show to hundreds or thousands of people so they can do what they do best, perform and play to a sold out crowd. Rarely does something like this happen quickly (not saying it can’t), but most artists and bands will need to start out one fan at a time by personally inviting family, friends, co-workers and online fans to their events.

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You’ll need to get creative in finding ways to get people to come out to shows, especially if no one knows your band yet! Either way, there are a million ways to promote a show and here are a few suggestions to start:

- Create a Facebook event three weeks to one month ahead of the day of show - further in advance if it’s a record release to maximize visibility.

- Invite your friends from that city - you can search in the facebook search tab “friends of mine in _______” and fill in the city your show is in. Sending a personal message helps, or texting them to see what they’re up to that night.

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- E-mail is great and everyone checks theirs pretty regularly. Utilize this and start an e-mail list - let people sign up to get updates and important show details. They can sign up online on a website or by a sign up sheet at your merch booth.

- Create a poster or online flier (one that all the bands can share on social media that is eye-catching and relevant) *no later than a month in advance* as well as physical copies you can drop off at the venue for them to hang up.

- Print up small handbills of your poster and go to local shows and distribute them to show-goers. You can also leave these at some bars or rehearsal space bulletin boards.

- During the weeks prior to your event, go to the venue as well as other local venues and see other bands playing. Introduce yourself to the people at the show and invite them to the show.

- Be thorough in the show information online and on posters - other bands playing, door opening time, show start time, set times for all bands playing and order of bands, age restrictions, location, etc.

- Don’t be pushy

- See if you can sell tickets in advance and give people a cheaper option than purchasing tickets at the door

- Get some friends on the list for free if you have a guess list - usually a band will be given 4 or so guest spots, sometimes more, sometimes less.

- Engage with your audience and do some sort of ticket giveaway or contest

- Set goals for yourself/your band on hitting particular crowd numbers for growth

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It is important to not be afraid of self-promotion. This is a common fear amongst musicians and people who have lots of stuff to promote! And most of the time, people want to know! You’re gonna have to if you want people to show up. Let people know where you’re gonna be and why they should come - do you have new songs you’ll be playing that you haven’t yet? Do you have a new look? New album out? Songs people wanna sing and dance to? A one-time collaboration happening on-stage? Make it interesting and show people you are interested in your show. Make frequent posts about it, not just once, but many times, because people forget and because repetition sticks in people’s minds!

Most importantly, be creative and thoughtful in inviting people out. It’s great to speak to the masses online, but people find it exciting and more meaningful if you reach out in a more personal way. Then eventually you will find ourself infront of those 100 people you imagined in the first place!

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Getting online press coverage

When you release an album, an EP, a music video, or have an important show event coming up that your fans should know about, as well as future fans and industry people, it is important to get coverage! In addition to promotion by you the press is very important for awareness. Online exposure especially, since that’s where most people get their news nowadays. There are many outlets all over the country and all over the world who do reviews, features, premieres, and interviews on indie artists and bands. There are also plenty of people online who are interested in listening, watching & reading about music stories, discovery get new artists or hearing about tours from known and unknown artists. Many magazines and newspapers have the majority of their stories available online now, whether they still print physically or not, and a lot of them now have their own music blogs.

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Things to get press coverage for:

⁃Important upcoming shows, tours, charity events, free events or appearances

⁃New album, New EP, or New single

⁃New music video

⁃Any important news item regarding your band/music

-Reviews

-New Tour dates

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The most important thing about getting press is: LEAD TIME & PLANNING!

*Tip & Examples: Let’s say you have an EP coming out in two months but no shows booked. Consider booking a release show near or on the EP release date. You could offer a local music blog a new song off the EP as a premiere on their site before it comes out. That way, the blogger can promote and mention your EP and your show to hype your audience and get people ready for the new music.

After your release, consider shooting a music video for a single. You could reach out to a local music blogger for a premiere. They can also mention your local show dates in the post… or you could consider approaching a national music blog for the premiere or online magazine for a review. If you have a tour coming up, you could tie it in with that as well! The ideas are endless.

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When pitching to online press, it’s important to keep in mind how to reach out properly:

⁃Send an e-mail to the official e-mail of the site or blog - usually listed in the “Contact” section on a website or will have a spot for “Submissions.”

⁃Address the interviewer or individual who is covering your story in a polite manner, and send all the important info in a very clear, concise and organized way.

-Keep the subject simple - or think of some clever wordings for your subject lines.

⁃Send your pitch 2-3 months in advance (This is just a suggestion as 5 weeks is a typical deadline for physical press, but online will vary site to site).

⁃If you don’t receive a response in a week-ten days, try following up.

⁃Keep in mind the audience of the blog/site/press you are reaching out to, would this audience appropriately suit your sound/vibe?

-Tip: The Hype Machine (http://hypem.com) is a great site that collects articles and you can search bands you think you sound like and find the related blogs that might be a great fit to contact.

⁃Reach out to press in the area you are from, or the place you play the most, and if you have any shows coming up in other areas, reach out to press there too!

-Reach out to national and international sites for interviews, features and reviews too.

⁃If one site is doing a feature for a new music video, or a premiere of a song, sometimes you can only limit this to one for the “Official Feature” of it. Ask if it is unclear - or if it’s possible to get multiple outlets to cover the same thing if it’s offering different things. This will vary and most blogs like to be the FIRST & THE ONLY ONE TO PREMIERE IT.

⁃Once you get a feature or any sort of coverage on a blog, be sure to promote it! Thank the person who worked on the press for you - fans will love to read all about it and share it with their friends.

-The difference between a “Feature,” “Premiere,”and “Review”

A “Feature” is an article or blurb devoted to the treatment of a particular work for promotional purposes.

A “Premiere” is the FIRST showing of a piece of work, usually includes some notes on the work from the writer.

A “Review” is a publication with critical articles about a piece of work.

-Tip: if you or your band has some money saved you can consider paying and hiring a PR company who already has relationships with blogs and magazines. That way you have a professional (who does this every day) helping you. Both ways work though and just because you hire a Publicist unfortunately things are not guaranteed.

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Typically a publicity campaign can run from $500-2500+ a month and can get more expensive the more high profile the outlets you’re going after. If you’re ever unsure ask the PR Company or publicist to provide a list of clients or ask around to any friends whom may have worked with companies to get feedback.

Tip: Where to search for press outlets, try google searching ‘the city’ your playing and ‘magazine‘, ‘Music Magazine’, ‘Music Blog’ or ‘news paper’ (example: Los Angeles Music Blog’. Recommended Site:http://www.abyznewslinks.com/ (this site lists news media outlets by city & state). 

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Routing a Tour

When you first go to plan the routing of a tour, it is important to take these factors into consideration and to first ask yourself a few questions to define the tour.

What is the purpose of the tour?

Are you releasing new music? Did you just release a single or record and want to support the new release? Are you playing a great festival or show in the middle of the country or in a big city that’s great exposure and great pay? It might make sense to turn the trip into a tour instead of flying there. Are you just looking to expand and play regionally as well as gain new fans? Or are you just looking to play and get paid gigs? Whatever it is, try and define that first with your band so when it comes to finding venues and cities you are looking in the right place!

(Photo: Jenny Bergman)

(Photo: Jenny Bergman)

What vehicle are you using and how long is your tour?

Is your car or van in good enough shape to take you where you need to go? Is a rental a better option? And if it is, is it in your budget? Sometimes when you’re first starting out touring it might be best to consider just getting your feet wet with a few week-long runs with your band before diving into a full few weeks or month. That way you can build up to something bigger and you won’t go out of pocket too much if you’re just figuring things out! No matter how long you are going out on the road for, make sure that your car has passed inspection and that you can rely on it to get you where you need to go safely!

What is your target market?

Once some of your goals are defined, decide who you are playing for. Which cities do you think your music will go over well and where do you want to start to build a fanbase?

Music scenes all over the U.S. grow and change on a regular basis, but it’s important to keep in mind which part of the country you’ll be playing to and what type of music is mostly focused on in an area or venue. It will vary all over, but you can research the cities you’d like to play in and see what’s going on at the local music venues through the venues’ facebook page calendars or websites. You could also look up bands or artists you feel are similar to you and see the venues they play. Also consider asking other friends’ bands or artists who tour what experiences they have had.

*Make sure that if you’re focused on playing a specific bigger city that you aim to play there on a Friday or Saturday night as these are the peak show times! Try to keep larger cities on the weekends and the smaller towns in between.

*TIP: http://indieonthemove.com is a fantastic database of venues by city and state. You can also define the search by seeing the music genres that the venues host.

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What is your budget and have you set a target amount that you will be getting paid or making per show?

Sometimes when you’re first starting out, you won’t get a guarantee from the venue. In some cases you will have to play a market a few times, and show consistent promotion for a door cut, bar %, or tips to gain fans. At times you will have to rely on merch sales when you are starting out! This can be such a great savior! Your two CDs and three t-shirts sold will pay for gas and food in a new place. Sometimes coffeehouses, bars, restaurants, and breweries will pay more and give bigger guarantees than a venue in a big city. The smaller town markets between the bigger cities can sometimes be overlooked, but will often host music, be a perfect stop in between two major cities, and can really help bring in larger amounts of money than a show in the big well-known cities would. This is often because they may have a budget for giving artists a guarantee or a good bar %, and you won’t be relying on bringing in fans for a cut of the door.

When you’re first starting to tour, it’s good to establish the worth of your performance. How much do you get on a regular basis when playing your hometown? How many people are in the band and how much will you need to get to the next city? It’s important not to undersell yourself but not to charge too much either. If you are new to a market, just know you will have to play the city a few times to help establish. Consider it an investment if you plan to tour a lot. If you’re basically beginning in a new place and can coordinate with the booker, always ask and see what they can offer you as far as a bar %, door %, guarantee, food/drinks, lodgings, etc. Often venues will feed touring artists too! So always check.

(photo: kribbean at 'Roll & Roll Hotel' via TripAdvisor)

(photo: kribbean at 'Roll & Roll Hotel' via TripAdvisor)

Will you be staying with friends/family or at hotels?

If you are traveling to a place where you have friends or family, see if it’s possible for you or your band to crash with them for a night. More likely than not, they’ll be excited you’re in town and will want to come see the show and let you crash if they have the space. Offer them some merch or a guest list spot in return! If you’re staying at hotels, a lot of them offer deals and express deals through http://Priceline.com. It’s possible to get a motel or a hotel for as cheap as $25 a night in some cities!

(Photo: Vanessa Silberman on tour with Jimmy Dias of The Love Dimension)

(Photo: Vanessa Silberman on tour with Jimmy Dias of The Love Dimension)

What is the distance between cities/states you are traveling?

It is helpful to look on a map when routing a tour, and to keep in mind the lengths of your drives and the distances between your shows.

*TIP: find out who in your band will be sharing the driving duties and calculate how many hours the band can do on a gig day (ex. 4-5 hours plus gas stops/food breaks/bathroom stops. Also consider cushioning a little time for traffic in bigger cities or any time changes to get you on time for load in and sound check).

It can be a challenge sometimes finding great gigs on weekday nights rather than weekends, but it IS possible!! Many venues around the U.S. book music seven days a week, and some that only book on weekends will sometimes make exceptions for touring artists. The closer you can get to a straight line or a circle without retracing steps and driving extra miles is going to be the most effective way to map out a tour and to make the most profit!

(Photo: Jenny Bergman)

(Photo: Jenny Bergman)

Do you have enough time for preparation and booking?

Make sure you consider starting the planning of a tour 3-6 months prior to the first night of tour. It’s going to take time to align it so it is linear and so you can fill in all the gaps accordingly. If there are any gaps, say on a Monday that you just couldn’t find a venue for, try hitting up a local show and meeting some bands if you’ve got the day off. You could visit some open mics as well as record stores to see if they’ll put your music on consignment.

This site can tell you how much a route will cost in gas and tolls and also how far you’ll travel in miles according to your vehicle. It’s great for figuring out a budget plan and a route! https://tollguru.com/trip-calculator

With just a little bit of planning ahead and time you can route a great tour!

Pre-Production and preparing for recording

You and/or your band are sounding like a solid unit, you’ve practiced multiple times on a regular basis, and you’ve possibly even played your music out in some venues. The songs are sounding good and you’re really happy with how they’ve come together - the next step could very well be stepping into the studio to record!

The first step for preparing for recording your songs is pre-production. Pre-production is one of the most important things an artist or band can do and have an understanding of, especially in this day and age when both money and time are such factors. Just like first promoting your show and then playing the show happens in two steps, so should pre-production & recording.

Pre-production is the time you spend to prepare your songs, practicing your parts as a band or artist, checking arrangements, breaking the songs down so you make sure everyone is playing the same notes, checking all the musical parts, practicing harmonies, refining lyrics, making sure the key is right, finding the tempos (whether you’ll play to a click or not, depending on your music) before entering the studio.

*A lot of us artists have some sort of home studio or computer recording setup available to us, and even with technology at our fingertips (which is a great luxury we have these days!) it can be overlooked. There are many opportunities to take your time to figure things out on your own for finding the best result - so take advantage of these things so when you spend your time and money on a great studio or great producer you are prepared!

When practicing your songs, you could even time yourself and see how long it takes you to set up all the instruments, play through the song(s) you want to record, *plus factor in the engineer mic’ing instruments and testing sounds (that will give you an idea of how long it might take in the studio to set up even before tracking). Find the BPM (beats per minute) of the song and try practicing to a click track, this will further tighten up the band and the song, speed up time in the studio, and when it comes to tracking it (especially via the computer), will give everyone a guide, allow the producer and everyone involved some more flexibility and creativity to build the song into something really cohesive and wonderful!

Tips:

- There are multiple tempo / click apps (try TEMPO) available for free or for a couple dollars online for iPhones or Smartphones that you can tap tempos out to.

- When you find a tempo for your song try it a couple beats slower and faster to see which sounds best!

- Try using a Phone or Computer mic to record your band or your songs to see how songs are sounding! This is a great way even if it’s rough to hear your songs.

- Typically full production indie band songs can usually be fully tracked in 1-2 days (of course depending on a lot of factors: if a band or artist is well rehearsed, instrumentation, style of music, budget)

- Typical studio rates can vary from $250-up (maybe cheaper depending on the place/location)

- Most average studios run $350-700 and up a day in major cities. Sometimes the rate includes the engineer if he or she owns the studio.

- Engineer rates average w/o a studio usually run $150/$250 a day and upward -or- $35 and up an hour

- Assistant rates run usually $100/150 a day

- Typical tracking hours in professional studios run 8-12 hours varying on the studio and engineer rates

Your friends, family, and fans are all going to want to be able to take something home that you created and that they can listen to over and over again. (Plus as a touring artist, CDs are a must have and merch sales help to pay for lodging, gas, and food. Recordings are also important for any band or artist who is serious about wanting to be a professional musician as it is an opportunity for online sales and a way for fans and industry folks who don’t live in the same city or country to hear you.

This is just a small glimpse into preparing for recording but above all, have fun and enjoy the process, learn who you are and what you like as you go - make sure to communicate how you want things to sound when you work with people; the more direction as a band or artist the better. Also, being flexible during the recording process will make things easier and less stressful. In pre-production, if it’s not sounding the way you want, experiment with some different pedals, amps, instruments, or even better - try different things out (second guitar parts, solos, arrangements, drums fills). Have a few great options and a couple ideas you can bring into the studio or to the producer so you can try things until you find your desired sound.

Recording can be a really great process and experience. Like anything though, it can become frustrating or present challenges when you least expect it - especially if you’re not prepared - so doing so will really help! Be patient, and understand that the recording process may take longer at first, but once you get familiar with how it all works, and familiar with a studio, it’ll get faster and become even more fun. Be respectful to the equipment, the people you’re hiring on the songs, whether it’s the engineer, assistant engineer, producer, mixer, etc. or hired players if there are any. They are all working with you to carry out your vision, and it can be a really rewarding experience for everyone when everyone’s on the same page!

  (Photo by Greg Jacobs)

 (Photo by Greg Jacobs)

  (Photo by Doug Batchelder)

 (Photo by Doug Batchelder)